January 1, 4 B.C.
The first day dawned overcast and promising rain, but even the dark skies couldn’t dampen the spirits of the young couple. They hurriedly packed up their meager belongings and loaded them on Ruth’s sturdy back and left the warm comfort of the cave.
It was only a few minutes’ walk to the house Joseph had rented, and they didn’t encounter anyone along the way. The census had ended, and the village had returned to its customary quiet as the mass of pilgrims had returned to their homes in their far-flung regions.
Mary was pleasantly surprised when Joseph pulled Ruth to a stop in front of a small but sturdy stone cottage. A stone stoop at the front door was planted on either side with climbing roses that grew up and around the door, creating a canopy over the entrance. A single late bloom hung from the bare, prickly canes, and Mary reached to sniff its sweet fragrance as she passed beneath the canopy and stepped into a small gathering room. To the right was a small kitchen with a low table pushed up against the front wall beneath a window. A small storeroom was just off the kitchen. Taking a turn around the cottage, inspecting her new home, Mary passed back through the gathering room and stepped through a door into a small but snug sleeping chamber. At the back of the chamber was a door flanked by two windows leading out onto a small terrace snugged up against the back of the house. The terrace was edged with a low stone wall and beyond it the ground dropped away sharply to plunge down the ridge, a road below snaking its way down the hillside. Being perched on top of the steep cliff afforded a wonderful view off to the north across the broad valley and away over the rolling hills toward Jerusalem, and Mary imagined many pleasant hours working and dining and resting here with the magnificent view north toward the city, east toward the wilderness and the sunrise, and west toward the gently rolling hills and the sunset.
But there was no time for loitering, so Mary quickly turned to go back inside and unpack.
Joseph hauled in fresh water and built up a small fire, hanging an iron kettle over the fire
and filing it with water to heat for quick baths before changing into their Sabbath clothes. It
was the 8th day now of Jesus’ life, and they would be visiting the synagogue for his
Joseph had already made all the arrangements and the Rabbi would be available. Neither Mary nor Joseph allowed themselves to dwell on the absence of family and friends to celebrate the event. So many wondrous things had happened that they simply took it in stride and rejoiced even as the Rabbi intoned the benediction, pausing to allow Joseph to quietly add the child's name, Jesus. The snip was made, eliciting a wail from the infant. When the Rabbi had finished his ministrations, Mary once more wrapped Jesus up in the soft blankets and gathered him up in her arms, bending her head low and softly cooing as she pressed him close to her breast to sooth his pain. Thanking the Rabbi, the young couple turned and wound their way back to the stone cottage that was now their home.
Excerpt from "The Promise: The Life and Times of Jesus"